FARMINGTON — The project to stabilize the Whittier Road is on track for its deadline of Sept. 30, according to project supervisors.

Brian Bair, project manager with the U.S. Forest Service, said they have so far laid the base for the project, and are working with two excavators to rebuild the slope at an incline.

After Tropical Storm Irene caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long piece of the embankment break off, the Sandy River bank was reduced to a steep dropoff 30 feet from the road. Bair said the more of a gradual incline they can create, the more stable the bank will be.

The bank is expected to become increasingly stable as it naturally amasses more vegetation as well as material from the river.

Jed Wright, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said his agency is happy with the compromise reached on the design for the project.

The start of the project was pushed back over a month, after U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposed alternative plan to the original structure design drawn up by environmental consultants hired by the town.

Consultants said and town officials said they felt unconvinced of the sturdiness of the project, which used no boulders, while U.S. Fish and Wildlife said it thought the project would be more friendly for the endangered Atlantic Salmon.

All agencies agreed on a compromise plan that used interlocking logs, trees with the rootwads still attached and boulders along the base. As part of the compromise, the project used less boulders than originally proposed by consultants.

Wright said the project has enough boulders to have a stable base but enough soft material, like the logs and roots where it will be friendly to the salmon.

The portion of Whittier Road along the unstable part of the slope will be closed until at least the end of the month because of construction.

The town has been trying to stabilize the bank since August 2011, fearing if the damaged bank was left unchecked that it would eventually collapse.

The total project, which includes the cost of a biological assessment, engineering and design work, will cost $452,072.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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